Congress repeals controversial plan to sell Plum Island, wildlife oasis in Long Island Sound
By ZACH MURDOCK
DEC 28, 2020
Conservationists have won the more than decadelong fight to stop the federal government’s sale of Plum Island, the Long Island Sound home of a government research facility that also has become a pristine wildlife haven.
The measure ending the controversial plan to sell the island to the highest bidder was among the many items stuffed into the new massive congressional omnibus spending bill, which also includes the latest COVID-19 financial relief. President Donald Trump signed the bill Sunday, December 27, 2020.
Now conservationists and the Connecticut and New York lawmakers who have fought since 2008 to prevent the sale and development of the island off the eastern edge of Long Island can “finally and fully celebrate” its future preservation, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said last week.
“This exquisite environmental treasure has been spared a headlong rush to sell to the highest bidder,” Blumenthal said. “We will continue to fight to preserve this special gem from future development. Plum Island is a unique environmental resource that is home to hundreds of species of wildlife and numerous important historical sites that must be preserved for future generations to enjoy.”
The 840-acre Plum Island, just 10 miles from Connecticut shores, has for decades been home to the Animal Disease Center federal research facility. The center is kept under such high security that little of the island has been touched by development or visitors, inadvertently creating an oasis for the birds, seals, fish and other wildlife that frequent it.
Congress decided in 2008 that the center would move to a new facility in Manhattan, Kansas, and ordered the island sold to help pay the $1.25 billion tab, which conservationists feared would lead to the development and likely destruction of the unspoiled habitats there.
Read the whole Hartford Courant article HERE
A Victory for Plum Island Advocates in latest COVID Relief Bill
BY CATE HEWITT
DECEMBER 30, 2020
After 12 years, Plum Island is off the auction block because of a provision in the $2.3 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that passed on Monday.
It’s been 12 years of fighting to prevent the sale of the island, said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, during a public zoom call that included members of Preserve Plum Island Coalition, an alliance of more than 116 organizations.
“We fought for years to prevent the sale to a developer. We tried locating it, at first, with the National Park Service then with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” Schumer said.
Since 1954, the 840-acre island located in Long Island Sound has housed the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, a federal research facility specializing in research on pathogens found in animals.
The island is home to a number of endangered and rare wildlife species as well as a lighthouse built in 1869 and Fort Terry, a U.S. Army post built in 1897.
In 2008, congress voted to move the lab to Kansas in 2023, to a new facility that would be funded by the sale of the island.
“Plum Island really was an anomaly. It’s not the way that the federal government usually gets rid of land whenever they’re done with [its] particular purpose, said Leah Schmalz, chief program officer for Save the Sound, who coordinated the zoom call.
Schmalz said that the repeal of the 2008 law means that normal disposition process for federal lands can be followed for Plum Island. First the property will be offered to other federal agencies, then to the State of New York, next to local municipalities, and, if there are still no takers, to nonprofit organizations.
Read the whole CT Examiner Article HERE
Plum Island ‘closer than ever’ to being saved as federal spending bill would block sale
By Tara Smith
December 12, 2020
Over the years, there has been a concerted effort between elected officials and environmental groups in both New York and Connecticut to halt the sale.
Because of its remote location and restrictions that limited both development and visitation to the island, environmental advocates say Plum Island and the waters surrounding it have become ecologically diverse.
The environmental group Save the Sound, which coordinates the Preserve Plum Island Coalition, renewed its push for preservation this summer.
The group released a report in July that shows the island, located just east of Orient Point, is home to 227 bird species—nearly a quarter of all bird species in the United States and Canada stretching all the way to the Arctic.
A separate survey of marine habitats around the island conducted in September 2019 revealed its waters are home to an abundance of animal and plant life, including communities of sponges, bryozoans, and tube worms covering immense boulder fields, coral, anemones, eelgrass meadows, blue mussels, seals and kelp species.
Read the whole Suffolk Times article HERE